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Project Management, Viewpoint!

Most “benefits” aren’t!

I’ve been looking at a number of public sector organisations’ Programme and Project Plans recently, as well as some Business Case documents and a recurring theme is that claimed “benefits” really are not benefits at all in many cases.

What do you think of these (anonymised but real example) “benefits”?

  1. Options designed and tested
  2. Projects implemented
  3. Building construction completed [by date]
  4. Equipment installed and working [by date]
  5. An understanding of front-line staff views on the service they deliver
  6. Key stakeholders have “bought into” the project

None of them, in my view, are benefits.  Some definitions I use are:

  • “A real source of value to the business” [Gartner 2005]
  • “A term used to indicate an advantage, profit or gain attained by an individual or an organisation” [Remenyi, Bannister & Money 2007]

However, the most useful model I’ve come across is OpenStrategies’ PRUB-thinking.  This basically says: “Organisations run PROJECTS that create RESULTS; if those project results are USED, there should be a BENEFIT to the user.”  Or, put another way: unless somebody wants and uses the results of an organisation’s projects there can be no benefits.

So, going back to the list of “6 benefits” above, I think all of them are “Results” (in PRUB language).  None of them are benefits.

OpenStrategies’ PRUB Thinking

In the world of sales, the language of benefits is at the heart of selling skills.  Sales and Marketing people are taught to differentiate between “Features” and “Benefits”.  All too often sales people bore potential customers with long lists of features (e.g. …has a 300 GB hard-drive, …has an intelligent 4-wheel drive system, …has interchangeable coloured panels).  Features need to be translated into benefits and you do that by adding “which means that” to the end of the sentence.  So, …has a 300GB hard-drive which means that you will be able to store (Use) at least 50 hours of music or video files and be able to play them whenever you want (Benefit).

The same thinking needs to be applied to “benefits” of projects and programmes.  From the six above; for example: “building completed by [date] which means that we won’t have to renew the lease on the existing building (Use) and will save at least £2.5M this year (Benefit)”.  Or, “key stakeholders have bought into the project which means that financial approvals will happen on time (Use) and we will avoid delays and assocaited costs (Benefit)…”.

PRUB-thinking highlights the fact that often there is a cause and effect chain leading to ultimate business benefits, for example “more motivated staff, leading to more creative working, leading to happier customers” (and even this chain could be extended).

The main point to remember though is that the Results (deliverables) of a Project can NEVER be benefits.

Download the full article: Most Benefits aren’t!


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